The Vikings face a hard task on several levels – playing a more seasoned, better team on the road, going without their most explosive running back and trying to limit what might be the best bookend defensive ends in the league. Get the matchups to watch how they could be affected by injuries.
After beating a sub-par Oakland team at home, the Vikings get a difficult matchup on the road at Giants Stadium.
The Vikings ground game is the best in the NFL — and even without Adrian Peterson
, the team has a capable running back in Chester Taylor
— but the Giants defense is seventh in the league against the run. New York's defense also is rated seventh, although it is 18th against the pass.
That isn't necessarily good news for the Vikings because New York almost certainly will challenge Tarvaris Jackson
and Minnesota's 30th-ranked pass offense to put the ball in the air as much as it wants.
There is no way the Giants are going to let Taylor beat them on the ground, and considering how poor Jackson has looked this season in road losses against Detroit and Dallas, it's pretty simple to figure out what New York's strategy is going to be.
The Giants are in the top 10 in rushing offense, but with the way the Vikings shut down most teams on the ground, it's likely New York will to go to the passing game. Remember, Minnesota is last in the league in stopping the pass, and while the Giants certainly aren't a great passing team, it only takes a halfway competent aerial game to provide the Vikings with trouble.
The Giants will try to move the ball downfield quickly this time, without the cushion of bulky RBs Brandon Jacobs
and Derrick Ward
to maintain possession and ball control. This will necessitate short and medium routes for the receivers, most notably TE Jeremy Shockey
and slot WR Amani Toomer
. Rookie RB Ahmad Bradshaw
might figure in this game plan since he has the speed and quickness in the open field to turn a short pass into a long gainer.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH RB Chester Taylor went for a season-high 164 yards on the ground in place of the injured Adrian Peterson against Oakland, and the veteran figures to get plenty of carries versus the Giants this weekend. Taylor isn't nearly as flashy a runner as Peterson, but he can be very effective at getting chunks of yards and then breaking off long gains, meaning the Giants will need to stack the box. Among the key defenders will be MLB Antonio Pierce.
CB Cedric Griffin has been a prime target of top-notch receivers this season, and this game doesn't figure to be any different. The Giants will try to get Plaxico Burress, who has eight touchdown catches, matched up against the second-year corner. Griffin's biggest problem has been that he has been victimized on explosive plays, something the Giants certainly have noticed in film study. Part of how teams approach Griffin also depends on veteran CB Antoine Winfield's status. Winfield did not play in the second half against Oakland after missing the previous two games because of a hamstring injury. If Winfield can't go Sunday, it could be a long day not only for Griffin but also rookie CB Marcus McCauley.
RT Ryan Cook gets another difficult matchup as he tries to slow veteran DE Michael Strahan, who has eight sacks this season and had three last Sunday against Detroit. This will be a difficult assignment for Cook on many levels, including the fact that he will be playing on the road and could struggle if things get noisy. Strahan knows all the tricks and will try to make it as long a day as possible for the 2006 second-round pick.
Gaints RDE Osi Umenyiora vs. Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie. Umenyiora, with nine sacks, will use his quickness against a bulky McKinnie, who is 6-8 and 335. Umenyiora, 6-3 and 260, reputed to be the quickest DE in the league, must make a lightning-fast first move.
The Vikings figure to go with Chester Taylor again at running back as Adrian Peterson continues to recover from a slightly torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. Taylor rushed for 164 yards last Sunday, so it's not as if the Vikings lack a capable player behind Peterson.
If FB Tony Richardson can't go, look for Jeff Dugan to see plenty of time as Taylor's lead blocker.
The on-again, off-again status of veteran CB Antoine Winfield does not help an already suspect Vikings pass defense. When Winfield can't play, he's replaced by rookie Marcus McCauley. That means second-year player Cedric Griffin is the elder statesmen among the corners, and that's not good news considering Griffin has struggled at times this season.
The Giants will be without SLB Mathias Kiwanuka for the rest of the year. He was placed on injured reserve with a fractured fibula suffered on the second play of last Sunday's game in Detroit. Most likely, reserve Reggie Torbor, 6-2 and 250, will move up to start.
Also missing will be Jacobs, the team's leading rusher, who suffered a strained hamstring in Detroit. He'll probably return the following week, but if his backup, Ward, cannot play (he has missed the last three games with ankle and groin issues) the starter will be Reuben Droughns.